Have you ever stood somewhere and experienced a perfect stranger walk by and smile at you? What did you do? If you are like most people, you unconsciously returned the smile and felt just a little better about yourself and your situation.
Many entrepreneurs go through their daily sales calls, whether in person or on the phone, completely unaware of a tool that costs them nothing but that can provide them with a tremendous advantage when attempting to close a deal. What’s that tool? A genuine smile.
Poet Emily Dickinson nailed it more than a century ago when she wrote, “They might not need me — yet they might — I’ll let my Heart be just in sight — A smile so small as mine might be precisely their necessity.”
Though she was a poet and not an entrepreneur, Dickinson understood the power of the smile. She may have not understood the science that makes smiling such a valuable business asset, but she no doubt observed good things when she expressed a genuine smile.
About 100 years after Dickinson’s death, scientists began to formally study the power that a smile confers on the closing of a deal. Researchers have conducted many studies over the years and repeatedly have found a strong correlation between smiling and positive business outcomes. Scientists have named this phenomenon the emotion contagion.
In a business setting, emotional contagion means a prospect might be influenced by the emotion of another person. In other words, if an entrepreneur is making a sales pitch and genuinely smiling, his or her positivity and warmth will be conveyed to the prospect, improving the odds for closing a deal.
Understanding this gives additional weight to the phrase “put on your game face.” Armed with this information, entrepreneurs conducting face-to-face meetings might be able to positively influence outcomes by being certain to port a genuine smile throughout their entire interaction with a prospect.
Unfortunately, not just any smile will suffice. Researchers found that emotional contagion occurs when the person smiling displays a genuine smile, also known as a Duchenne smile.
“The Duchenne smile involves both voluntary and involuntary contraction from two muscles: the zygomatic major (raising the corners of the mouth) and the orbicularis oculi (raising the cheeks and producing crow’s feet around the eyes),” according to Adoree Durayappah in Psychology Today. “A fake smile or, as I like to call it, a ‘Say Cheese’ smile involves the contraction of just the zygomatic major since we cannot voluntarily contract the orbicularis oculi muscle.”
Therefore, an entrepreneur can aim to induce the wrinkles at the corner of the eyes that produce the crow’s feet effect. This improves the odds of achieving the entrepreneur’s objective – closing the deal.
But entrepreneurs should be forewarned: Emotional contagion works in many ways. Studies have also found that individuals frowning or exhibiting indifference will struggle to close a deal. Just as a genuine smile warms a prospect’s heart, a frown or other adverse facial expression has the opposite effect.
Guy Kawasaki addresses emotional contagion in his book Enchantment: “Smiling sends a very clear message about your state of mind, not smiling creates an opening for many interpretations, including grumpiness, aloofness, and anger.” In essence, a genuine smile tells a prospect that you are happy to visit, know what you’re talking about and love what you’re doing!
Kawasaki offers a simple tip for generating the Duchenne smile: Think pleasant thoughts. Those who struggle to generate a genuine smile prior to a meeting should think of a positive mood changer: a kiss from a spouse, a hug from a child, scoring the winning run in a softball, or anything else that induces a warm and fuzzy feeling. That feeling generates the genuine smile that will warm up a prospect and improving the odds of closing the deal.
“Do you like to do business with grumpy people? Do you know anyone who does? Do you think grumpy people get what they want?,” writes Kawasaki.
A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America documented similar outcomes for communicating on social networks. Specifically, the researchers found after observing Facebook users that “emotional states can be transferred to others via emotional contagion, leading people to experience the same emotions without their awareness.”
So not only should entrepreneurs genuinely smile when meeting people face-to-face, but they should also express themselves positively on social networks and the Internet to warm prospects’ hearts.
Smiling during a sales call is common sense. At times, however, a personal or professional issue might get the best of an entrepreneur. Regardless of an entrepreneur’s emotional, psychological or physical state, whether positive or negative, the entrepreneur must do everything possible to generate a genuine smile when meeting with prospects. Failing to do so could compromise a deal — and that’s nothing to smile about.